Moving from secret agent to detective, Bond star Daniel Craig has been cast in Knives Out. Writer/director Rian Johnson describes the project as a “contemporary murder mystery” and plans on making the film before returning to Star Wars to direct the franchise’s newest trilogy after Star Wars: Episode IX. Johnson wrote the original screenplay for Knives Out and will produce the movie along with longtime partner Ram Bergman (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Looper).
Following director Danny Boyle’s recent exit from the next James Bond film, the current state of the 007 franchise is somewhat uncertain. The delay in the next film’s release, while terrible news for diehard Bond fans, proved extremely fortunate for Johnson and his mysterious passion project. The convenient gap in Craig’s schedule opened him up ideally for the lead detective role in Knives Out. According to Deadline, Johnson was thrilled to have Craig on-board for his newest film:
“I have been a huge fan and always wanted to work with him and as I worked on the script, trying to get it right, Ram and I were wringing our hands over who could be the detective,” Johnson said. “Then, serendipitously, we heard Daniel might have a small window, and it worked out. He’s an actor of extraordinary range, and we are looking forward to the fun of finding that modern detective, and collaborating with Daniel on creating a new [Hercule] Poirot.”
It makes sense that Johnson, apparently a huge fan of the detective novels of Agatha Christie, wants to transform Craig into a modern-day kind of Hercule Poirot — one of the author’s most beloved and long-lived characters. The mustachioed detective is a dignified, logical man who relies on an understanding of the psychology of murderers to solve his cases. Watching Craig take on an updated personification of this type of hero would play out nicely alongside the twisty storylines reminiscent of Christie’s novels.
Johnson has been a longtime admirer of the unique feel Agatha Christie’s protagonists bring to the story, as well as how their intuition and the surprises they uncover lead to each reveal. He had been working out for years how he would best create his own murder mystery, with these classic themes influencing the developing story from the get-go. This past summer, once he had all of his ideas narrowed down, Johnson finally wrote the screenplay that would become Knives Out — his own contemporary take on what the Golden Age of detective fiction referred to as the “impossible crime” mystery.
The director is no stranger to the genre, of course, having made his directorial debut with the neo-noir drama-mystery Brick back in 2005. The film starred Joseph Gordon-Levitt and centered around a high school loner attempting to solve the unexpected murder of his girlfriend, all taking place in the suburbs of California. Brick has since achieved cult classic status, which definitely gives Johnson an edge when it comes to generating critic and audience confidence in the upcoming Knives Out.
With the writer-director being so busy with the new passion project, it’s unclear when production for the next Star Wars trilogy will actually begin. As the Abrams-directed Episode IX is set to release in 2019, it would appear as if Johnson has some time on his hands, logically, as one would assume studios want a significant gap between trilogies. That way a good amount of hype can build up while the story grows stronger, since the writers can spend more time perfecting it.
However, that decision rests entirely in Disney’s gloved hands. Should the studio choose to push the — still very mysterious — “Untitled Star Wars Trilogy: Episode I” to release in 2020, Johnson may find himself rushing through the filming of Knives Out. Either that or delaying its production. And since the release of Bond 25 can’t wait forever (probably) putting the new film on the shelf could mean losing his star in the meantime, making this a very unlikely move on Johnson’s part should he find himself in that very sticky situation.
This week at TIFF, both US and foreign distributors will be bidding for Knives Out, with all signs pointing towards this being a particularly enthusiastic auction. CAA Media Finance represents the film’s North American rights, while FilmNation deals with the international. The film is set to begin production by November with Johnson allegedly working on casting Daniel Craig’s co-stars at the moment.